As we continue to hunker down for winter, the days can blur together. Even in Greenpoint. Opening up an interesting bottle of wine can transform another night on the couch into a trip to Italy, a mountaintop in Chile, or a California hillside.
Greenpointers spoke to the wine experts at local favorites Coast and Valley and Dandelion Wine to get some fresh ideas on what to uncork this year. Cheers to a delicious 2021!
What are you excited to drink this year?
Eric Hsu and Stephanie Watanabe, owners of Coast and Valley: We released our Equity Action Plan a few months ago and a big part of it is to elevate POC (People of Color) voices in the wine industry. We’ve been slowly discovering and adding some amazing wines owned and/or made by POC, and we’re excited to find more in 2021.
Jed Boyar, Buyer at Dandelion Wine Shop: We’re excited to drink more Champagne this year! Especially on the 20th but all year. The terroir revolution there has been underway for some time now, and each year there are more really fascinating and even affordable bottles available here. New York is a tremendously great place to buy Champagne right now! We’re also excited generally about Greece and Oregon at the moment. These are both places with amazing natural conditions in which younger winemakers are making really interesting choices and making truly expressive wines that are quite affordable compared to their counterparts.
Spain continues to be an area of overwhelming value – especially Gredos and Montsant but all over. There’s also Portugal right next door. The secret to getting the greatest value from these places is to spend a little more in fact. You can buy a 15 dollar bottle from Portugal instead of a 20 dollar bottle from Italy maybe, and that’s nice. But when you’re going to spend 40 or 50 dollars or more, now you’re really an exceptional wine at a very good price. This strategy is a little counterintuitive but that’s why it’s a good trick. And of course there’s also the fact that no one’s putting a fifty dollar bottle from the Douro on their shelf unless its killer. No one good anyway. (Don’t shop at bad places!)
We’re also excited about magnums. The wine really does age more gracefully and taste better. And, like many shops and restaurants, if we have it in magnum its because it’s really really good. If I was tasked with shopping for friends at Dandelion I’d buy mostly magnums. Actually I just did that.
Can you recommend a good weeknight wine and something for a special night in?
EH & SW: A great weeknight wine is the Post Flirtation White Blend from Martha Stoumen. Notes of kiwi, white pepper and ocean air, and at just 9.5% alcohol, it’s the perfect glass with which to wind down the day. And for a (very) special night in, grab the 2018 Williams Selyem RRV Pinot Noir from the owners’ private collection. Took us 8 years on the waiting list to finally get our hands on these highly allocated wines and they are worth it.
JB: For a weeknight, Chiara Condello is one of our favorite young winemakers. We sell lots of her beautiful Predappoio Sangiovese from Romagna. Her vineyards are essentially surrounded by the forest (and some farms) and this biodiversity really makes itself known in an immediately recognizable complexity. To me it tastes like the forest a bit. Goes with almost anything and won’t get boring on you. It’s nice to have a little luxury in your everyday life. That’s a big part of what we want from wine after all.
For a special night, Champagne comes to mind again of course! There’s an amazing Champagne for any menu. White Burgundy of course – duh! If you’re feeling like red, one easy choice is Montsant. The wines are rich and elegant and pair easily with a variety of foods. And if you decide to spend a little money in this region the rewards are great. My personal favorite right now is Terroir Sense Fronteres Vertebra. It’s a fantastic wine and a great example of supreme value coming out of Spain.
Many of us are looking to diversify our wine consumption. Can you recommend a wine made by someone underrepresented in the wine industry?
EH & SW: We’re so glad that Greenpointers is highlighting this topic, and we’d love to be a part of the conversation. Our wine list is currently at 40% POC/Women/LGBTQ+ winemaker and owner/operator and our goal is to eventually reach 50% in the POC category. One of our favorites at the moment are wines from Folk Machine. Kenny Likitprakong is half Thai, and makes really fun wines from grapes like Charbono, Valdiguie and Carignan.
JB: The most underrepresented people in the wine industry are – hands down – the workers who pick the grapes. It’s a real problem. We do consciously look to work with producers who treat their workers fairly but it is an egregious part of the system, especially at the mass wines level. And then, so many groups are underrepresented in the wine industry at this point still. It’s a mess. I think real South American winemakers (not giant corporations) still suffer from racism in most markets. For us, Chile in particular has been a real bright spot recently, and we’re big fans of Roberto Henriquez.
Is there a drinking trend you’d like to leave in 2020 or one you’d like to bring into the New Year?
EH & SW: I’d like to leave the bad “natural” wine behind and get the “good” natural wine in. What I mean is too many winemakers try to pass bad/lazy winemaking by somehow branding them as “natural” wines “without intervention”, instead of just owning up to their mistakes. There are some amazing natural wines out there, following the same set of strict principles, but they don’t try to slap a label on a bottle of spoiled grape juice and try to sell it as “the-way-nature-intends-it-to-be” wine.
JB: Every year we wish for and work toward the same wine trend. We want people to feel more comfortable with wine. The effects of snobbery and pretension are long-lasting and ultimately that environment is toxic for the industry, toxic for everyone. Our staff work hard to move the needle on that. One good thing for people to be aware of when they’re staring at a wall of wine is that no one’s ever done this before. It’s a unique moment in human history so no one should feel like they should know all these facts or whatever.
Oh, and people should really drink more white wine. It does better early in its life – which is sadly when we drink most of our wine – and it’s less likely to weigh you down or give you a headache. And decant it. No one thinks to decant white because you’re not worried about tannin or sediment but it will help it open up just as much – it makes a huge difference. Or just leave it in the fridge for a day after that first glass!